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Jam School Activities

Write the Music to a Song You Know

Starting Point #2 in the Series

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Click here if you wish to download the printable reference sheet now


What You Need to Know Already:

Things to Help You With This Skill:


Introduction:  Once you learn to play a song, you may find that you need to write down the notes in order to remember them later on. This lesson will show you a four-step method for writing down a song that you know. You don't have to learn all four steps at one time. For the time being you can just follow Step #1 and write down the pitches to your songs for future reference.


Step 1 - Write down the pitches (using whole notes) on a piece of staff paper. Leave plenty of space between the notes, and start a new staff each time you take a breath. (You'll need lots of room to work when you do the other steps.) Check yourself on each phrase. Sing the tune while watching your music to see if you have the right number of notes. Then play the phrase on your instrument to make sure that those notes are correct.

Note: It is not necessary or even advisable to go directly to Step 2. Instead, you could practice Step 1 on many different songs. If you are a beginner, you might actually do better by just writing down the notes themselves and playing the rhythms from memory.

Step 2 - Sing the song to yourself and keep time to the music by tapping your foot. Determine whether the beats come in groups of 2 or 3, and mark each spot where you find Beat 1. You might want to ask a musician friend to help you with this step.

As you sing the song and tap your foot, think "1-2-1-2", "1-2-3-1-2-3", or "1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4" depending on which pattern feels better with your song. Every time you come to beat "1", write down a number one below the note that you're singing. If Beat-1 lands between two notes, write your number "1" between those notes.

Step 3 - Now that you've found and written down all the Beat-1's, draw a barline on the staff to the left of each. Starting with your second staff, transfer any notes that come before the first barline to the end of the staff above. Your song should now be divided into measures.

Step 4 - Now that all your notes are divided into measures, sing the song again and count along. ("1-2-1-2", "1-2-3-1-2-3", or "1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4") In each measure, place the rest of the beats under the notes that they belong with. Remember that not every note is right on a beat, so some beats may have to be drawn between two notes.

Step 5 - Now that all  your beats are placed, fill in your noteheads and add in whatever flags, rests, dots, etc. that you need.


Example:  My Country 'Tis of Thee

Play this phrase on your MIDI player, and print out this reference sheet using Adobe Acrobat  getacro.gif (2143 bytes)

Download the proper MIDI file for the band or orchestra instrument that you play:

C instruments ( piano, strings, flute, piccolo,  trombone, baritone BC or euphonium, tuba, keyboard percussion)

B-flat instruments (trumpet, clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor & soprano sax, Baritone TC)

E-flat instruments (alto & baritone sax, alto & contra-alto clarinet, E-flat clarinet, E-flat mellophone)

F instruments (french horn)

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